State DOT Landscape Projects Transforming Infrastructure

Across the country, state departments of transportation are investing in a variety of landscaping projects to help transportation infrastructure become more “eco-supportive” of native habitats.

[Above photo by TxDOT]

For example, since mid-2023, a team of landscape architects from the Washington State Department of Transportation has worked with the University of Washington’s Botanic Gardens and Seattle Parks to select and plant native flora and create habitats for wildlife on Foster Island – an area that previously served as a construction zone for the 520 bridge project.

In a blog post, WSDOT noted that its work crews spent the last year moving topsoil, boulders, and trees into the former bridge construction zone – as well building irrigation systems and crushed rock paths to mark trails for park visitors.

Those crews are now planting native ferns and Oregon grape plus evergreen, dogwood, and willow trees – among other flora – that will be monitored for the next three years to ensure they thrive.

Crews placed habitat logs in the landscape to provide homes for insects that birds and small mammals will feed on; logs that also provide a great home for frogs and salamanders. The logs serve a long-term purpose, too, WSDOT noted, providing nutrients as they decay and creating fertile new ground for more plants to grow.

Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Transportation is gearing up to support wildflower season along roadways statewide.

The agency has been planting and maintaining wildflowers on highway right of way since the mid-1930s and TxDOT Vegetation Specialist Travis Jez said the agency’s wildflower program works not just in springtime, but throughout the year.

“Our overall objective is to have a regenerative side of the road that takes care of itself and is able to maintain itself,” Jez noted in a statement.

More than 5,000 species of wildflowers and native grasses decorate Texas roadsides. While part of their benefit is for beautification, they’re also important pollinator plants. Monarch butterflies rely on the wildflowers during their migrations, as do 900 other species of butterflies, bees, birds and various creatures, the agency said.

To ensure the habitats are available for the ecosystems they support, TxDOT has a delayed mowing schedule during certain times of the year to let the plants grow strong and tall.

Delayed mowing not only helps the environment, but it also is a cost-effective move that allows TxDOT to focus labor force and funding on other projects for a couple of months, the agency said.

When TxDOT does mow the fields, the agency said that helps disperse seeds into the ground to sprout up the next season. In addition, it helps clear any debris covering the soil to allow for the seeds to make better contact. Depending on the need for more wildflowers in a certain area, TxDOT said it will plant up to 30,000 pounds of seeds each year.

And in Tennessee, a new $3 million-plus state DOT landscaping project will seek to beautify a long stretch of highway in the Chattanooga area.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation said the U.S. 27 landscaping project – awarded to Stansell Electric Company – will include the planting of trees, shrubs, prairie grasses, wildflowers, and a variety of other ground cover crops as well as the installation of an irrigation system.

“This landscaping project is the first of its kind, and we’re delighted it’s been let to construction,” noted Daniel Oliver, Tennessee DOT’s Region 2 assistant chief engineer, in a statement.

Work on this landscaping project is scheduled to begin in mid-2024 and should be wrapped up by December 2025.

“Our partnership with the Tennessee Interstate Conservancy has played a critical role in the advancement of this project,” Oliver added. “Upon completion, the project will beautify an important corridor in the Chattanooga area and enhance the natural scenic beauty of the Tennessee landscape.”

Michigan DOT Talks ‘Complete Streets’ Policies

For the first time in 12 years since its initial adoption by the State Transportation Commission, the Michigan Department of Transportation is reviewing the state’s “Complete Streets” policy.

[Above image by the Michigan DOT]

As part of that review, Amy Matisoff – the tribal liaison at Michigan DOT – is working on a survey to get as much public input and engagement as possible before making any changes to that policy.

As part of the outreach effort for that survey and the overall “Complete Streets” review effort, Matisoff recently sat down with the Michigan DOT’s “Talking Michigan Transportation” podcast.

“I explain ‘Complete Streets’ to folks as creating a transportation environment or transportation system that feels safe and is usable for everyone,” she said during the podcast interview. “It does get complex really quickly when you start talking about the concept of complete streets, because I think what people see in their mind is different than what actually ends up on the ground.”

Matisoff noted that ultimately “Complete Streets” is more an “iteration of a process” and involves a lot of community engagement.

“That’s the part I think sometimes we miss is the front end, which is the engagement component of it,” she pointed out. “People are just thinking about the end goal of whatever is constructed. But engagement is such a key element of finding out what communities and what people need from their transportation system.

Matisoff added that one of “misconceptions” regarding the state’s road network is that Michigan DOT is “supposed to be the one providing all of that to everyone,” whereas in reality the agency is only responsible for about 11 percent of all the roads crisscrossing the state.

“So it is in partnership with our local transportation agencies that we provide [for] every transportation user on the streets,” she pointed out. “Also it’s about doing little things that don’t have to be big and flashy; things that I think a lot of communities are realizing that they can do fairly easily, that doesn’t take a lot of additional cost. So you’re going to start seeing more bike lanes painted or, you know, brighter crosswalks with better lighting; those types of things.”

There is also the “economic development” side of “Complete Streets” that many people overlook, Matisoff added.

“For example, look at the connection to trail systems, particularly in those more rural areas,” she said. “That is critical to communities that need tourism. So the folks that look at a full system, and really include recreation and transportation and the overlap, I think see a lot more benefit.”

Environmental News Highlights – April 3, 2024


Federal Judge in Texas Vacates FHWA’s GHG Rule -AASHTO Journal

EPA’s new heavy-duty vehicle emissions standards are effort to fight climate change -ABE News

EPA extends credits for automakers, further relaxing car rule -E&E News

NYC becomes first U.S. city to approve congestion toll with $15 charge to drive into part of Manhattan –AP

U.S. losing valuable wetlands at alarming rate -States Newsroom

USDOT Opens Applications for More than $5 Billion in Funding for Significant National Infrastructure Projects -USDOT (media release)



States Prepare For Solar Eclipse Traffic Tie-Ups With Advanced Tech –Forbes

Arkansas Department of Transportation releases traffic forecast map for eclipse – KTAL-TV

Texas restricts oversize truck loads on the day of the eclipse –CHRON

VDOT: Make plans to rotate travel around solar eclipse -WTOP Radio

Solar Eclipse 2024 – Illinois Department of Transportation

Solar Eclipse Oversize Restrictions -Medallion Transport and Logistics


CTA to restore bus service on some routes cut during the pandemic -Chicago Sun-Times


Virginia DOT Allocates $11.3M for EV Chargers -AASHTO Journal

FHWA Administrator: EVs a Charged Topic With High-Level Support -Government Technology

Cars are king of the commute. But employers may have a once-in-a-generation chance to change that. -HR Dive

Cool paint coatings help pedestrians feel up to 1.5°C cooler in urban setting, field study finds

Greenlane announces LA to LV charging corridor for commercial trucks– Electrek

The benefits of bridge-tunnels -WAVY-TV



Understanding the Federal Highway Administration’s Greenhouse Gas Rule -Environment and Energy Leader

Colorado air quality bills call for summer fracking pause, ‘repeat violator’ crackdown -Colorado Newsline

Air quality at many train stations is alarmingly bad. Here’s how to improve it -The Conversation

Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands rank among worst national parks for air quality -The Santa Fe New Mexican

FAA Invests $27 Million on Research to Reduce Emissions and Noise -FAA (media release)


A Number Of States Adding Native American Translations To Road Signs Promoting Awareness -Milwaukee Independent

Transit called ‘lifeline’ for rural Pennsylvania residents -WVIA Radio

Disabled People Are Dying in America’s Crosswalks. We Need to Protect Them. -Governing (commentary)


NCDOT Prepping for Annual Litter Cleanup Effort -AASHTO Journal

These glowing orbs can tell you if water is clean or polluted -Fast Company

Floating wetlands bring beauty, benefits to South Carolina ponds -The Times and Democrat

Alaska’s New Robotic Dog Will Be Used To Haze Wildlife At Fairbanks Airport -Anchorage Daily News

New approach to monitoring freshwater quality can identify sources of pollution, predict their effects -University of Cambridge

PennDOT Invites Pennsylvanians to Share Feedback on Winter Services -Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (media release)

EPA announces $12M to protect salmon by reducing toxic tire dust, other pollutants in stormwater -EPA (media release)


Florida legislature passes bill easing demolition, replacement of old buildings with bigger structures -Florida Politics

Georgia DOT and We Are Teachers Launch Free K-12 Car and Road Safety Program -Georgia Department of Transportation (media release)


TxDOT Launches Pedestrian & Bike Safety Campaign -KIAH-TV

Cyclist group launches crash-tracking survey after rise in DC traffic fatalities -GW Hatchet

How can more U.S. cities become more walkable? Here’s one urban planner’s approach -NPR’s TED Radio

Residents Taking It Upon Themselves To Update Maps Showing Raleigh’s Walkability -WRAL-TV

Deadly fires from phone, scooter batteries leave lawmakers playing catch-up on safety –Stateline

Pennsylvania Taking Steps to Combat Human Trafficking -Pennsylvania DOT (media release)


When Our Technology Solutions Do Not Work for Everyone -TRB (webinar)

Homes on Track: Building Thriving Communities Around Transit -Regional Plan Association (webinar)


Petroleum-Equivalent Fuel Economy Calculation -Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (Final rule)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit -EPA (Notice; request for public comment)

National Boating Safety Advisory Committee; April 2024 Meetings -Coast Guard (Notice)

Lithium Battery Air Safety Advisory Committee; Notice of Public Meeting -Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Notice)

Notice of Availability of a Joint Record of Decision for the Proposed Sunrise Wind Farm Offshore New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island -Bureau of Ocean Energy (Notice)

National Boating Safety Advisory Committee; Vacancies -Coast Guard (Notice; request for applications)